Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fr. Victorino Osende on the Conditions of Effective Apostolate

Tradere aliis contemplata, "To give to others the fruits of contemplation." [1]

According to this concept, the active life of the apostolate should be a spontaneous and natural fruit of the contemplative life or a prolongation of the same, whereby the contemplative life is completed and perfected. The contemplative life, in its turn, should be the fruit and normal term of the active life in its ascetical aspect. [...] [2]

The active life differs from the contemplative in that the first refers principally to man's exterior actions and the second to his interior actions. But exterior activity can be considered under two aspects: as directed to one's own salvation and sanctification or that of others. In the first case the active life blends with the ascetical life and precedes the contemplative; in the second, it follows the contemplative life as its proper and natural effect. [...]

Many believe that contemplation, especially in its most lofty degrees, is the final term and the most elevated goal of the supernatural life. That is not true, however, save in certain exceptional cases in which God disposes otherwise in accordance with His high and inscrutable designs. [...]

Normally, therefore, the contemplative life should end in the active life, expending itself in some form of the apostolate. [...] A soul in this state will always feel the impulse to do everything possible to further the glory of God and the salvation of his neighbor. [...]

It is reasonable that this should be so, for good is diffusive by its very nature and it is in the contemplative life that one attains, through union with God, the most perfect possession possible of the highest good. Wherefore, he who truly has attained to the contemplative life cannot help but feel this divine impulse to communicate it to others. [...] We find it in all the saints, especially in the great apostles and ministers of the gospel [....]

[St. Teresa of Avila writes,] "[Saints'] conception of glory is of being able in some way to help the Crucified, especially when they see how often people offend Him and how few there are who really care about His honor and are detached from everything else" (Interior Castle, seventh mansions, chap. 3). [...]

We see also the gross error of those who say that the contemplative and active lives are incompatible or that the contemplative life fosters slothfulness and that it is totally disinterested in the good of others. [E.g. Nietzsche's "saint" in Thus Spoke Zarathustra] [...]

Thus we see clearly how the active life of the apostolate follows the contemplative life and is an effect and natural consequence of the same. We see also that the ascetical phase of the active life precedes the contemplative. [...]

The ministry of the apostolate requires such great sacrifice and detachment, abnegation and patience, constancy and fortitude, that only a love stronger than death can bear it and exercise it with the greatest possible perfection and efficacy. To launch upon the apostolate without due preparation and without the necessary spiritual provisions and, above all, with but a smattering of the interior life, is to tempt God and to risk becoming apostles of Satan rather than of Christ. For we cannot give what we do not have, and when we give, we have to give of what we have. If we possess the spirit of God, we shall communicate that spirit to others, but if we have the spirit of the world, we cannot but communicate a worldly spirit to others. That is why the saints did not want their disciples to go forth to preach and teach others what they themselves had not learned and practiced in the ascetical and contemplative life. They wanted them to be apostles of truth; not of abstract truth which is acquired through pure speculation [i.e. study and mental reflection], but of the truth actually lived and made incarnate within their hearts. They wanted them to communicate the divine word which is life and spirit, a flaming dart which penetrates into the deepest recesses of the heart.

So also we should strive to communicate to others our hearts transformed in the love of Christ; we ought to give them Christ Himself enclosed within our heart and hidden, so to speak, beneath the guise of our burning love of charity. Such is the idea of the apostolate according to the saints, the apostolate in its most elevated and perfect expression.

This does not mean that there are no inferior grades of apostleship. We already know that practice makes perfect. [...]

Ah, there is nothing greater or more sublime than the battles for the faith and for souls! Neither is there anything more terrible than the fury with which the powers of hell guard the prey which they are about to lose. But in spite of all that, success is certain for those who never turn away from the supreme commander, Jesus Christ. [...] He may be sure that he will bear much fruit as long as he remains united to Christ, but without Him he will accomplish nothing (John 15:5).

This means that the apostle, more than anyone else, has great need of prayer and the interior life. These are the life and soul of every apostolate and without them he will bear no fruit, however much he may work or however brilliant his enterprises and apparent successes may be. [...] He must ever keep his heart and attention fixed on God, doing everything for God's honor and glory and for the good of souls and never descend from the supernatural and divine plane on which he is placed by reason of his mission. He must forget self and selfish interests and be constantly vigilant lest there enter into his works or intentions the slightest personal interest or self-love. In a word, he ought to sacrifice all: comfort, health, life, and reputation for the sublime ideal to which he is consecrated. These are the fundamental dispositions required for a successful exercise of the apostolate.

Further, in order to bear fruit among souls, the apostle must be filled of the spirit of God, and this he will attain only through an intensive life of prayer. [...] He ought never lose sight of God and should remain united to Him either by means of ordinary prayer or, as St. Francis de Sales says, by means of the prayer of works: doing everything for the love of God and with the intention of serving and glorifying Him. [...] If these works were performed with the interior spirit which should animate them, that fact alone would suffice to make us saints. [...]

Although at first we may not have the virtue and sanctity required for a perfect apostolate, if we perform our works in this spirit, we shall reach that state gradually. [...] We shall produce increasingly greater fruit. For it is certain that we shall produce more fruit as our interior spirit is greater and our union with God more intimate.



1. Motto of the Dominican Order, taken from the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, IIa IIƦ, q. 188, a. 6.

2. NB: Fr. Osende distinguishes between two kinds of active life: that which goes before the contemplative life (i.e. the active life in its ascetical aspect) and that which follows after the contemplative life and flows from it (i.e. apostolic life).

The active life that precedes and prepares for the contemplative life is the ordinary struggle for holiness, the acquisition of virtues, the purification of the soul of all evils, etc., in preparation for mystical union.

The active life that follows the contemplative life flows from that life of union as Fr. Osende will explain. The process, in summary is as follows:

Ordinary, ascetical life acquiring holiness (active life; leads to contemplative life) -> stable and profound union with God (contemplative life) -> apostolate (active life; effect of contemplative life)


Source: Fr. Victorino Osende, Fruits of Contemplation, trans. by a Dominican Sister (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1963), 297-306.

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